When you are standing out on a vast plain the most obvious part of your view is the division between the sky and the earth. But as you reflect on this view for a while, as I have on many occasions, you begin to realize that if you travel towards that horizon, your view will ultimately change. As time passes and you get more and more experience in the world, then this view of a distant horizon becomes so altered in your perception that you no longer see the distance but the reality of the changes that come as a result of the journey. You know what you will see as you travel over the distant horizon and you discover that the journey is what is important, not the present view. This is the same experience you encounter with the discovery of your family history.
When you begin discovering your family, you see only the details of what is immediately around you and what you have experienced during your life. Ancestors are like a distant horizon with the unknown on the other side. But life is a journey of discovery and as you get older and travel forward in time, your perception of your family changes. You begin to realize that family history is a journey not a destination. Your own life and your own experiences will become the family history of your descendants. Quoting from Walt Whitman in the Leaves of Grass:
Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.Aristotle is attributed as saying, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom" and knowing your past and the history of your family is a key component in knowing yourself and coming to that point of beginning to acquire wisdom. I feel sorry for those who view gaining knowledge of their family history as a pastime or a hobby when it is ultimately a serious journey of discovery. Here is another quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's book, The Idiot.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.
It's life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.Genealogy is the perpetual discovery of who we are. When we come to understand this, we move from interest to passion. We realize that ultimately, the only thing that really matters is the family and its relationships. All history, all science and the essence of religion is family.